Liberal Democracy as Soft Authoritarianism

From The Progressives’ Liberal Democracy Has Failed. Radical Decentralization Is the Answer. by José Niño

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So-called liberal democracies have characterized the West for the past century and are viewed as the pinnacle of political development. So much so that Western elites are firmly convinced that this system of governance should be spread far and wide—be it indirectly (color revolutions) or directly (economic sanctions, kinetic military actions, or nation-building expeditions).

Liberal democracies are political systems in which people entrust political power to a political class that, at least on paper, is constitutionally limited when it comes to exercising political power. Further, liberal democracies are supposed to protect civil liberties and nominally respect private property rights.

What appears good to many on paper does not necessarily operate smoothly in real time. Upon further analysis of the past century of politics in the West, one quickly realizes that the previous laissez-faire classical liberal order of the nineteenth century has become an afterthought to the progressive liberals of today. Moreover, modern liberal democracy has become little more than a flimsy façade for soft authoritarianism. The illusion of liberal democracy has been completely shattered by the way Western governments have responded to the covid-19 pandemic.

Events in Canada, a country held in high esteem by progressives worldwide, have been revelatory in that regard. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s invocation of the Emergencies Act to quell the Freedom Convoy protests showed the world that liberal democracy is not so “exceptional” and is just as susceptible to descending into petty despotism as any other political system.

Protests and blockades against its stringent covid-19 restrictions were enough for the Trudeau government to unleash the proverbial hounds against people who dared to protest government overreach.

The Trudeau regime has killed two birds with one stone by using its emergency powers to attack both peaceful protestors and the budding cryptocurrency sector—one of the few avenues of human activity that has yet to be fully enveloped by the state. Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland announced in the middle of February that the crypto wallets of Freedom Convoy protesters and those funding the protests were frozen. While Trudeau seemingly revoked his government’s emergency powers, the damage has already been done.

The Canadian government’s actions—not its boasting rhetoric about human rights—have laid bare the hollow nature of liberal democracy in the covid-19 era. When pressed against the wall, liberal democracies like Canada eventually cracked and revealed to the world their true tyrannical colors.

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I would have called it soft fascism, not soft authoritarianism… but Niño is not far from the target.

Our Betters do like their control tools: be they banning demonstrations, ever-greater restrictions on Incorrect Speech, Incorrect Action, or more tighter controls on money and property and movement.

Also of note is the tightly univocal, even co-ordinated, nature of the press, especially the major media organs. I suspect those government payoffs help with dealing with dissent.

And you can rest assured that the solid majority — probably soaring to the 95% to 99% — of media people are Solid to Totally Progressives.

Not a lot of dissent there to Progressive policy, to put it mildly.

And even the Conservatives of Canadian Politics cannot be differentiated from the most uncompromising, out-of-touch Progressives of five, ten years ago.

Two sides of the same power structure: one going quickly to the destination, the other going slowly, but both moving along nicely… and enjoying dinner together after the cameras are off.

But Evil Leaders have no power, without Evil Followers that — implicitly or explicitly — endorses them. No major conspiracy can succeed without the implied consent of the governed.

The major Canadian denominations have had decades to challenge this. Far from challenging it, they endorse it, either explicitly or by forever-ineffective half-hearted gestures against it.

In this failure, they also follow the desires of their membership and laymen.

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The nineteenth-century variety of liberalism facilitates social cooperation and voluntary exchange. By contrast, democracy, in the context of a mass society, has led to the development of a technocratic regime that nominally respects property rights but micromanages human behavior through the gradual establishment of bureaucratic diktats and uses a welfare state to buy off the population. Central banking and a sizable warfare state are also features of this omnipotent state, which formed, not coincidentally, during the consolidation of mass democracy in the twentieth century.


Going back to romanticized eras of the past is not an option. We must move forward and blaze a new path to a more just society based on private property and freedom of association. The jurist Carl Schmitt once said that “a historical truth is only true once.”

Fostering an embrace of laissez-faire liberalism is always valuable because it places some limits on what a regime can get away with. But history suggests it is not enough to rely only on ideological bulwarks. 

It is perhaps time to think bigger, and we can do so by drawing from one of the more underappreciated aspects of Mises’s life’s work. Namely, his focus on radical decentralization. This can come in the form of nullification, soft secessionism, localism, and other forms of breaking down centralized power. The challenge before us is to cobble together a decentralized alternative that builds on the positive aspects of the previous liberal order while rectifying its flaws to forge a new architecture of ordered liberty and voluntary association.

Thinking beyond traditional modes of political organization will be the key challenge as Westerners navigate through the uncharted waters of woke despotism. Radical decentralization will be the lighthouse for Western countries that have lost their way. Whether these countries correct course remains to be seen.

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I’m fine with radical decentralization, as far as it goes — I’m with McDurmon’s County Rights guidance of reaching that point, as outlined in his book Restoring America One County At A Time.

But that is a road, not a destination. Building a nation — really, many, many nations, from many tribes and people-groups, on all the inhabited continents — grounded in the Law of God (as opposed to the ever-shifting, ever-self-serving, ever-elitist desires of Our Betters) will take a lot of on-the-ground digging, and a lot of careful thought.

While the Law-Word of God (as inscripturated in the Bible) is the blueprint, different men will have different ways of understanding the details, even if we assume a good-faith effort, grounded in God-first Biblical assumptions from all concerned.

An unwise assumption, without the unity the Holy Spirit provides. Pardon my now-permanent suspicion of the motives and the goals of religious elites… but such suspicion has been earned.

Empire is not the goal: we are not humanists, either right-wing or left-wing.

The Kingdom of God is the goal. Not the Empire of Man.

Not even an Empire of State-Certified Religious Men.

Christ is Lord, Christ is King, and He is the Source of the Law.

Christ alone.

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